PROfile is a series of interviews with artists and creative souls who have built businesses around their craft and passion. We'll dig deeper to try and find out everything you could want to know from seasoned pros who have experienced the full gamut of highs and lows that come from running a creative business.
This week we interviewed Natala Stuetz, Australia-based creative genius behind the stationery brand Ma and Grandy.
What was your first ‘proper’ job and how did you land it? Was it what you intended to do as a career?
My first ‘proper’ job was working for a children’s fashion label. It combined many loves including illustration, design, fashion and art direction. It wasn’t what I intended to do for a career but it was a great experience to see a concept transform into a selling product.
Has design always been in your blood?
Yes, always. At school, art was always a favourite subject and eventually choosing to study graphic design was the best decision I made for a career. I come from a gene pool of builders, artists, dancers and interior designers, so my family has always helped to cultivate creativity.
How did you know you were ready to have your own business?
After spending 8 years working in corporate land, it can eventually drain your soul. So, I think I just knew the timing was right! I started staying up late creating my own designs, until it soon became evident that I should turn my hobby into a little business.
How did you go about starting your own business?
It took me two years to develop Ma and Grandy. It seemed like forever, but I’m glad I took my time in developing the look and style I wanted. Nailing the logo was crucial as it dictated the style of everything else. I then tested my designs on family and friends, and went through several rounds before launching the first collection through my online store.
How did you secure your first clients?
My first stockists came from email inquiries. I didn’t do any major promotion, but managed to feature on a few popular blogs and then word got out through social media. I’ve been so lucky to have friends in the industry who have plugged me on instagram and facebook too which is where most of my stockists have found me.
Ma and Grandy is one of the most innovative brands I’ve come across, how did you come up with the concept?
Thank you so much! It all started when I visited my family down in Canberra. Before Grandy (my grandfather) passed away last year, I went there for a holiday and was sorting through all of his photos. I came across this beautiful image of him with Ma, my grandmother, and I knew I had to do something with it. I'm a bit of a sentimental person. Grandy said to me, ‘we first met at a local church hall dance, she had spent all day making a dress for the night, and proceeded to be late. Her hair was still wet and she rocks up at this hall and I saw her from across the way, and I thought that was the girl for me’ (laughs) it was really cute, so it was just a beautiful story and I'm a total romantic at heart. So the concept formed from their story, combined with my love of greeting cards and hand-drawn typography.
What is your typical daily routine like?
Each day can be so different. I start work around 9ish and like to work late into the night too. The day generally consists of my corporate freelance business designing anything from a logo to a printed brochure. Then, I’ll be processing and packing Ma and Grandy orders and then off to the Post Office. On a really good day, I might get to design for a new collection or collaborate with another creative which is always a treat.
What traits do artists have that help with running a business?
I think a common trait of an artist is being a perfectionist. You want to produce the best results possible and take pride in the little and big aspects of your business.
How do you decide which suppliers to use?
Sometimes, it can be a stab in the dark, you try one and it fails, so you try another and another until you are happy with the product and the price. I really like supporting small businesses and therefore try to source my products locally. I never like to go straight for the cheapest product – I look for quality, good service and attention to detail. In the long term, you want a reliable product.
What’s been the most beneficial business decision you’ve made?
Outsourcing administration work. I’m painfully bad at it and it frees up my time to work on designing.
Artists and writers often describe the compulsion to work – do you experience an overwhelming desire to create something new?
Yes and no. Most of the time I enjoy creating something new, but you can also go through dry seasons when nothing excites you and the only remedy is coffee and a ‘just get the job done’ attitude.
Do you ever feel alone in your work?
Yes, absolutely. As I work from home, this can be a little isolating. Networking, social media and collaborating with other creatives are the best cures for keeping you in the loop and keeping you sane. I found it to be so beneficial to make an effort to meet with other people in the industry – talk about the highs and lows of business.
How do you relax?
A glass of wine, a good movie and spending time with dear friends.
Where do you find inspiration?
Oh! Everywhere and anything. But I do love watching an old film. This gets me in the “Ma and Grandy’ mood and often the style of language used in old films and musicals can spark ideas.
What advice would you give to your 21-year-old self?
Don’t worry so much about what other people think! That bright orange billabong tshirt is not your colour and is a hideous shape on you. Don’t buy it just because ‘everybody else’ is wearing billabong ☺
What would you like to be remembered for?
That I was unique and proud to be, that I loved others and brought some happiness to the world through my designs.
What’s been the best moment of your career so far?
Winning an art competition, getting picked by film director Baz Luhrmann and meeting him and his amazing creative team!
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Visiting the art gallery for ‘research’ and hearing that I helped make someone’s day with a Ma and Grandy card or an instagram post.
What have been the biggest challenges or obstacles you’ve faced in your business and how did you overcome them?
The feeling you get when nobody is telling you to do this or that. It's all your motivation; you can let the ball drop at any time because it's your business. I stay motivated by working with others and learning from the experts.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Never stop learning.
If you could have dinner with any inspiring person (past or present), who would you choose?
Can I pick two? Without a doubt, Baz Luhrmann and Oscar winning designer Catherine Martin. I’d love to pick their brains and discuss their glorious films.
Web: Ma and Grandy
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